The super-hot, P.C.-witch-huntin' Isaac Butler has an amusing post up on his blog about theatres and young audiences, that his web posse has been doing back-flips over. And why shouldn't they? Butler is expert at surfing the assumptions of his generation and class, and here he serves up an irresistible piece of liberal-arts-college Gen-Y bait. He calls the post a "no-brainer" (and it is pretty stupid), yet within it he claims to elegantly solve the problems theatres face in reaching young audiences.
To land this desired demographic, Butler helpfully explains, a theatre merely has to:
(1) Do work they want to see.
(2) Endeavor to do it well
(3) Offer it at a price point they will find reasonable
Yes. Anyone paged Santa Claus yet about this? Anyone? Probably not, because the Butler posse has been too busy congratulating themselves (and him) on the manner in which he's so succinctly rendered their wish list. But the idea that there are rather large problems with the plan (such as that "price point they will find reasonable") in the unfortunate land called "reality" doesn't seem to enter anyone's heads. Indeed, none of Butler's groupies bother at all with the sticky question of how a theatre can make ends meet doing shows for an audience that can't afford theatre.
You see, Isaac's three-point plan really requires a fourth point. Something like:
4) Shake down your donors, because your ticket revenue is about to be cut in half.
4) Fire half your staff, because your ticket revenue, etc.
You can imagine other #4's, of course; the point is that Butler's post is intellectually dishonest (as he usually is) without a #4. Perhaps half-aware of this gap, Butler makes a vague gesture toward the mild success of the musical Coraline, which extended two whole weeks. Uh-huh. Okay, everybody start doing cultish, vaguely-gay musicals about kids (like MilkMilkLemonade, perhaps?).
To be fair, Butler's got half a point here in that it's probably pointless for a theatre to tweet about Arthur Miller (or August Wilson) to his self-absorbed generation; twenty-somethings don't show up for anything unless it's all about them. Indeed, they can get pretty pissy when they realize that actually, older folks aren't really that interested in their mediocre output - as you can probably tell as Butler's post morphs into a rant:
Do you actually want younger audiences, or do you just want their money? [What money??] or Would your theater company be able to sustain itself on a younger audience base? [No, obviously.] And if not, are you just fucked? Are you just riding it out for as long as possible knowing it's not going to work out in the long run?
I'm sick of this shit. The answers aren't that hard, they're only hard because the answers are things that people don't really want to do, so they're trying to find ways to cheat. Well, I'm sorry, you can't cheat. It doesn't work that way.
And if you don't want to do that, that's okay. If you don't want to do that kind of work, that's okay. Just stop claiming you want younger audiences. You don't want them. You feel entitled to them.
I have to give entitlement-queen Butler points for actually reversing his own obvious M.O. and laying it at the feet of his "foes"; bravo! But what Butler seems to have never quite perceived is that most theatres are involved in a delicate balancing act: how to look like they're attracting young audiences - because older audiences want to believe that they are - while actually hanging on to that older demographic, which pays the bills? I'm afraid that's not a no-brainer; but if he figures it out, then he'll have something to post about.
Or, Butler might always offer his fans the following flip-side "no brainer" on how to get theatres to do more Gen-Y-centered fare, and sustain the art form long-term:
1) Get a better job;
2) Endeavor to do it well;
3) Spend your hard-earned salary on tickets to the theatre.